From the time we are young children, we place labels on ourselves to make sense of the world. We are either skinny or big-boned; cool or unpopular; a musician or an athlete.
And while these labels at times can be helpful to create some form of an identity, they are often extremely limiting. They place us into boxes—or out of them—and continue to follow us well into adulthood.
For a long time, I labeled myself as inflexible. I was a strong runner with an athletic build—not like the tall, lanky women we see gracing the covers of magazines. I completely took myself out of the "yoga" box because I assumed that in order to do it, you needed to have a certain body type.
It also didn’t help that by social media standards, yogis seemed like they could pop into an oddly formed shape anywhere—whether they were on a yoga mat or in an airport. It was intimidating to think that I could barely touch my toes while sitting down, let alone put my foot behind my head on the beach.
But I soon realized that the purpose of yoga was quite the opposite. Because yoga is really a practice of shedding labels, of removing the layers to get to your true self.
I realized that yoga as a practice only really begins on the mat.
As I began going to yoga class regularly, I realized that practice only really begins on the mat.
Asana, or the physical practice that we typically think of when we imagine yoga (beautiful studios and class memberships aside), is really just the first step on our yoga journey. It’s considered preparation for all the deeper aspects of our practice such as pranayama (breath work) or pratyahara (meditation).
Really, though, all of these parts of yoga are meant to prepare us for those tough moments in life—like when we get frustrated with our boss at work or our train is running late.
Because at the end of the day, the majority of us humans don’t have the flexibility—in terms of both our time availability and physical limits—to pop into a yoga pose in the middle of the day when things get rough. We need to be able to access that mindset wherever we are in the world—and it begins by being kind to yourself on the mat, whether you're flexible or not.
I was forced to confront my deeper feelings and emotional roadblocks.
After a couple of years of regular yoga practice, I decided to take the next big step and complete my 200-hour training. I realized that I was seeking to learn more about yoga than a 60-minute class in between work and dinner could give me.
Of course, I thought that at that point I had come to face all of my fears (don’t we all?). I thought that I had resolved my issue with inflexibility. I was growing more flexible by the day, and heck, it didn’t even matter to me anymore—or so I thought.
But oddly enough, before I even entered my teacher training, I spent hours practicing the perfect handstand. I wanted to walk into that room confident that I was a true yogi, that I was capable, that maybe I was even the best.
But yoga has this funny ability to shine a mirror on our deepest issues and make us confront them head-on. And my experience was about continuing to shed those self-induced labels.
During my training, I quickly learned that yoga practice is different for every body—and sometimes even varies by the day. That on some days, you may be strong enough to hold crow pose, and on others, child’s pose is the most you can do.
I had to learn to stop comparing myself to my neighbor and even to myself the day before.
I had to really sit with the labels that kept coming up and negative self-chatter that we all know so well: You’re not good enough, strong enough, flexible enough for this. Maybe you should just quit.
I had to stop defining myself by my outward "successes" and really get in touch with my true self, which if you've tried, is not an easy thing to do.
I released self-limiting beliefs and embraced kinder thoughts.
It is the first experience I’ve had that you can’t just "achieve" and complete. Almost everything in life that I’ve done had an end point. As a runner, you could only complete so many marathons. But with yoga, your teacher training is really just the start of an entirely new world and mindset.
For me, setting an intention to be kind to myself before each practice has helped me continue to shed those labels. Whenever I find myself looking over to my neighbor’s mat or beating myself up for falling out of a pose, I take a breath and come back to my intention. It’s a difficult, continuous practice that we all must work at—but one that overflows into the rest of our lives.
Over time, I’ve also come up with daily rituals that help me reset and continue to dig deeper toward the truest version of myself. While a daily yoga practice is on that list—it’s not the only thing. Taking time to meditate, journal, and even take a 10-minute solo walk (without music blasting into my ears) have all helped me quiet the noise and continue to shed those labels.
Of course, it’s a process. But with each step comes the beauty of finding your most raw, beautiful self—without labels.
In Part 1, we looked at how a consistent sleep routine enhances the quality of rest and rejuvenation. In Part 2, we focused on synchronising our sleep routine with nature’s doshic rhythm and in Part 3, we looked at practices that help you relax in the evening. Now we look at some more evening routines for better sleep.
Avoid backlit screens
Turn of all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Backlit screens interfere with your biological clock and fool your body into thinking its daytime, straining your eyes and stimulating your mind. Spend this time with yourself. Indulge in soothing meditation or self-reflection, listen to relaxing music, or read an uplifting book (although not in bed!).
Avoid reading in bed
Reading in the bed can confuse the body by signalling for sleep and alertness at the same time. Designate a place to sit down and read. Avoid reading excessively emotional or distressing content. If you struggle with sleeping, try giving up bedtime reading.
Keep a journal
Spend a few minutes writing about your day to clear your mind and remove any residual emotions associated with the day’s events.
A soothing glass of milk
If your system allows it, drink a glass of warm milk, with a pinch of cardamom and honey, to promote deep sleep.
Relax your body
Once in bed, consciously relax your entire body. Bring your awareness to each part of the body and will it to relax itself. Then focus on your breathing and gently drift into sleep.
Sleep according to your dosha
Vata types may suffer from irregular sleep routines and have to take extra effort to establish a daily sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every day, even if you don’t feel sleepy. Sleep on your left side to encourage breathing through your right nostril, to promote heat.
Pitta types tend to easily get disturbed from their sleep. Keep your bedroom quiet and fragrant. Sleep on your right side to encourage breathing through your left nostril, for cooling.
Kapha types have a tendency to oversleep and this causes imbalance. Ensure you wake up before 6 am. Sleep on your left side to promote heating.
Incorporating all these practices into your daily life may sound daunting. Choose a few of these that appeal to you most and commit to doing them every day. As you become comfortable, you can gradually add more practices into your routine. Observe how your body feels and celebrate the small improvements—these are your body’s way of thanking you.
Host Dr Mark Hyman has brought together the world's top experts on brain health to bring you the most cutting edge information & research on brain health.
Broken Brain is an 8-Part Docuseries that addresses the root causes of our biggest brain challenges, how to really go about healing them, & how to optimise your brain function. We refer to our "Broken Brain" by many names - Alzheimer's, depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, attention deficit disorder or ADD, autism & dementia - just to name a few.
If you (or your family & friends) are looking to achieve more mental clarity & become sharper, more focused & more joyful, you won't want to miss this documentary. Everyone Welcome!
You don't have to suffer with a Broken Brain anymore!
I will be playing the 8-Part docuseries hosted by Dr Mark Hyman, over 8 evenings.
Episode 1 The Broken Brain Epidemic / My Story - Thursday 12 April
Episode 2 Gut Brain Connection: Getting to The Root of a Broken Brain - Thursday 19 April
Episode 3 Losing Our Minds - Alzheimer's, Dementia & MS - Thursday 26 April
Episode 4 ADHD & Autism - Thursday 3 May
Episode 5 Depression & Anxiety - Thursday 10 May
Episode 6 Traumatic Brain Injury - Accidents, Sports & More - Thursday 17 May
Episode 7 7 Steps to An UltraMind (Part 1) - Thursday 24 May
Episode 8 7 Steps to An UltraMind (Part 2) - Thursday 31 May
Venue: YogAlign Studio, 125 Oceanbeach Road, Mount Maunganui
Time: 7pm start - bring a pillow or bolster for your comfort (we have some available :) and pen & paper
Cost: $5 per single session or $20 for the full 8-part docuseries
Dates: Thursday evenings starting Thursday 12 April to Thursday 31 May 2018
EVENING DINACHARYA, PART 3: RELAXING ROUTINES
By Shyam Kumar for Yogibeings
In Part 1, we looked at how Ayurveda considers sleep to be essential for good health and how establishing a consistent sleep routine goes a long way in enhancing the quality of rest and rejuvenation. Part 2 explained how the night is governed by different doshas at different times and how to synchronise your sleep routine with nature’s rhythm. Now, let’s look at establishing a soothing evening routine to help you wind down and prepare for a night of restful sleep.
Following a regular routine reassures your body that everything is well, providing a tremendous sense of comfort. Establishing a daily evening routine ensures that, with time, the body learns that these are signals that the day is ending and to prepare for a good night’s rest. It’s important to be consistent with the routine. Here are some things that you can incorporate into your evening routine:
Avoid that evening cup of coffee
Drinking coffee or any other stimulant prevents your brain from responding to fatigue, instead making you feel fresh and energetic. This causes problems in trying to sleep early. If you are suffering from sleep-related problems, cutting down on caffeine may go a long way in helping you sleep better.
Turn down the lights
Our biological clocks are highly sensitive to light. For most living beings, sunset is a signal that the day is winding down and it’s time to rest. In today’s modern life, there is so much artificial lighting that it severely interferes with the natural biological response to sleep. One of the best things you can do is to dim the lights at home as the sun goes down. This sends the signal to your body that the day is ending.
It’s best to reduce strenuous physical and mental activity at least two hours before bedtime.
Have an early dinner
Have an early dinner to ensure that the food is completely digested before you sleep. This prevents the accumulation of toxic waste (ama) in your body, which could make you feel dull and lethargic. It’s ideal to leave a gap of three hours between dinner and sleep time. To get used to eating early, you can begin by eating a lighter dinner than usual.
Wash your face
Wash your face with lukewarm water, preferably using an Ayurvedic cleanser. This cleanses the dirt accumulated through the day, removes oil from the pores and helps your skin breathe at night.
Massage your feet and scalp
Take a few drops of oil and do a slow, relaxing massage of your scalp. Wash and dry your feet and apply a few drops of oil slowly from heel to toe in slow, circular movements of your palm. This removes excess heat and relaxes the entire body.
In Part 4, we shall look at a few more things you can do before bedtime and how to incorporate these into our daily lives.
In Part 1, we looked the vital role of sleep in maintaining overall health, improving immunity and enhancing cognitive function. Establishing a consistent sleep and wake time goes a long way in enhancing the quality of rest and rejuvenation. Now, let’s see how different parts of the night are governed by different doshas, and how to synchronise our sleep routine with nature’s rhythm.
Ayurveda divides each day into two cycles:
1) The solar cycle which begins at 6 am and ends at 6 pm.
2) The lunar cycle which begins at 6 pm and ends at 6 am.
The lunar cycle plays an important role in establishing sleep rhythm. This twelve-hour period is divided into three intervals of four hours each. The first interval from 6 pm to 10 pm is dominated by Kapha, the second interval from 10 pm to 2 am is dominated by Pitta, and the third interval from 2 am to 6 am is dominated by Vata. This fundamental understanding, along with knowledge of the current season and your doshic constitution helps establish a proper evening routine that is in harmony with the doshic influences.
Ayurveda recommends going to sleep before 10 pm. During this time our bodies are dominated by Kapha’s earthy, stable and grounding properties—ideal for a deep, soothing sleep. The period from 10 pm to 2 am is dominated by Pitta, whose qualities are intense, hot, sharp and acidic. This might make you feel energetic, impatient to be active, and prevent you from falling asleep. Staying awake at this time causes a phenomenon called second wind, where you stop feeling drowsy even when you are exhausted. Moreover, Pitta increases the digestive fire and leaves you craving that midnight snack!
The time dominated by Pitta is used by the body to repair its tissues, clean out toxins, enhance your immune system and perform daily maintenance tasks. This is also when the mind processes the undigested thoughts and emotions caused during the day and comes to terms with them.
Pitta gives way to Vata dominance at around 2 am and the atmosphere is dominated by qualities of lightness, mobility and coolness. The body begins the process of waking up around this time. Ayurveda advises getting up an hour and a half before sunrise when Vata dominates, so you can begin the day feeling light and refreshed.
Sleeping fewer hours in harmony with these cycles can leave you feeling more relaxed and energetic than sleeping longer hours going to bed late. However, falling asleep early is not easy for many of us. In Part 3, we look at establishing a simple evening routine that helps us to wind down and get ready for a night of soothing sleep.
Do you wake up in the middle of the night, fully awake and unable to go back to sleep? Do you start your mornings in a state of exhaustion? Do you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night even though you are tired? Most of these stem from our irregular work schedules which have made food and sleep patterns and our lifestyle in general increasingly erratic. These irregularities affect our metabolic rhythm and lead to tiredness, heartburn, loss of appetite and other health complications.
Ayurveda highly recommends establishing a daily rhythm, “Dinacharya", taking into account your constitution and the cycles of nature. Adhering to Dinacharya ensures tri-doshic balance and provides a deep sense of relaxation, enhancing overall wellness. In this series, we will be looking at establishing a daily evening rhythm that leads to restful sleep.
Sleep is of fundamental importance in Ayurveda. It allows the body and mind to relax deeply, detoxify and rejuvenate. This is the time the body needs for tissue repair, muscle growth, removal of metabolic wastes, and enhancing immune function. Quality of sleep has a direct impact on our cognitive functions including level of attention and our ability to learn. Therefore it’s vital to get a good night of sleep.
Ayurveda gives no universal recommendation for the ideal duration of sleep. Based on your constitution, this may vary between 6-8 hours. Kapha predominant body types need little sleep and Vata types need the most. Too much sleep can imbalance doshas and causes dullness and lethargy. More than eight hours of sleep are recommended only for pregnant women, the aged and the sick.
Merely sleeping the right number of hours isn’t enough to ensure good sleep quality. It’s important to establish a consistent sleep routine with predictable sleep and wake times. This helps the body settle into a daily rhythm. Once you have understood the duration of sleep required for you, fix a wake up time, preferably early in the morning. Then work backwards to decide on your sleep time. Regularly adhering to these times creates a deep rhythm in the body and leads to a night of relaxing and refreshing sleep.
In Part 2, we shall explore the doshic nature of each part of the night and how it affects our sleep rhythm. Adjusting our sleep routine according to these greatly enhances the quality of rest.
By Robyn Youkilis 28 February 2018
I created my Good Gut Rule of Five to show you exactly what to put on your plate at lunch and dinner. Eating in this way will ensure that you are getting a balance of both macro- and micronutrients, as well as my favorite gut-healing superfoods (which I talk about more in my book, Thin From Within). Aim to include one ingredient from each of the five categories that follow for a complete and balanced meal:
Kale, collards, arugula, spinach, lettuce...I love ’em all. Aim to have at least two or three big handfuls of greens with most meals. Greens do it all when it comes to gut health and weight loss: They are packed with fiber, which helps fill you up and keep you regular. Plus, leafy green veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense foods, and when you are filling your cells with nutrients (I mean real nutrition, not just calories!), you have more energy and fewer cravings.
2. Healthy fat:
Avocado, olive and flax oils, almonds, butter from grass-fed cows (so the cows have healthy guts too!), and coconut oil all count here. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 to 2 ounces of nuts, or ¼ to ½ of an avocado at each meal for a good dose of flavor and satiation. Plus, fats are essential for proper absorption of most vitamins and minerals. I used to be terrified of fats, but now I include them at every meal and am lighter than I’ve ever been.
Wild salmon, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, tempeh, sprouted lentils, and canned wild sardines are some examples of great go-to protein options. Protein keeps you full and stabilizes your blood sugar, so you won’t keep dipping into your raw chocolate stash or crash halfway through your afternoon meetings.
4. Fermented food:
Including fermented foods on your plate is the good-gut secret to weight loss through a healthy microbiome (you need all that great bacteria throughout the day to keep your digestion humming!). Examples include raw sauerkraut, fermented beets, fermented carrots or radishes, and kimchi. Try adding 1 to 3 tablespoons at each meal, and feel free to work your way up to ½ cup or more. If you’re not used to the flavor of fermented veggies, try mixing them with avocado to mellow the flavor.
5. Cooked vegetables:
Having a cooked veggie or two with my meal (in addition to greens) always makes the meal feel more grounding and filling. Roasted zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots are all examples of delicious cooked veggies, but this can really be any veggie. I try to roast a bunch of seasonal veggies at least once or twice per week so I always have some cooked veggies on hand and ready to go. If you’re on the run, many takeout spots and fancy restaurants have awesome veggie choices these days.
Clemens Arvay, MSc
19 February 2018
New research, like the Journal of Adolescent Health study that found that teens who have more access to green space tend to be happier, continues to reinforce the idea that humans are intricately connected to the natural environment. Our entire body is constantly communicating and acting in tandem with our surroundings. But how can something as simple as spending time outside possibly make us healthier? Let's dive into the science.
The real reason being outside is so healing.
The Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku, "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing," is proof of concept. In this case, the term "bathing" does not mean swimming in some sort of wooded lake. Instead, it's about diving into a forest with all of our senses. In 1982, the National Forest Authorities of Japan suggested advertising Shinrin-yoku to the public and promoting its immune-boosting powers. And today, taking in the forest atmosphere is officially a recognized method of preventing disease and supplementing treatment in the country. The National Institute of Public Health of Japan promotes Shinrin-yoku, universities study it, and hospitals use it as an Rx.
When you breathe in the woods, you are inhaling a cocktail of bioactive substances released by plants. One of these groups of substances is called terpenes. They're usually emitted from leaves, pine needles, tree trunks, and the thick bark of some trees. We absorb these gaseous terpenes partially through our skin, but especially through the lungs. Terpenes also flow out of bushes, herbs, and shrubs among the understory, along with mushrooms, mosses, and ferns, too. Even thin layers of foliage on the forest floor emit them. So, safe to say, if you're outside and can see any sort of tree material, you're getting a dose of terpenes.
While forest medicine is under no circumstances a replacement for conventional medical check-ups, scientific studies have discovered the forest air is like an old friend to our bodies. Some of these terpenes have been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and neuroprotective activities, making forest air like a healing elixir we inhale. Even though terpenes come from trees, mushrooms, and herbs that are communicating with one another, our immune system can also decode them. Like other plants, we respond to terpenes by strengthening our body's defenses. Doctors of forest medicine know that anti-cancer terpenes have a direct impact on the immune system as well as an indirect impact on the endocrine system. For example, they help us deal with stress by lowering our cortisol levels.
Forest bathing has also been found to enhance something called natural killer cells, another defense against diseases like cancer. Those who spend merely one day in the forest will have more natural killer cells in their blood for seven days thereafter. Those who are in the woods for two or three days have elevated levels for another 30 days. It's incredible to think that we get these long-lasting health benefits simply by existing in the woods. We don't have to go on a trail run or rigorous hike (though those things are great too); just breathing and being in communion with trees is enough.
This knowledge totally changed the way I look at nature. Now, when I walk through the woods, I feel like I’m diving into an enormous living organism. I'm becoming a part of it, and we're breathing and communicating together.
Practical ways to make your next trip into the forest even more fulfilling:
1. The content of the anti-cancer terpenes in the forest air changes over the seasons. The highest concentration is in summer, and the lowest is in winter. They increase rapidly in April and May and reach their peak in June and August. Try to go out during these months if you can!
2. You can find the highest concentration of terpenes in the middle of the forest since tree population is the densest there. This dense canopy prevents gaseous terpenes from escaping too. Try to go farther into the woods instead of lingering on the edges when you can.
3. When the air is moist—after rain or during fog, for example—a particularly large amount of healthy terpenes will be swirling around the atmosphere. So if you've ever felt especially great during a walk in the woods after a rain shower, you're not alone!
Inspired by fresh new ideas for breakfast from Carla Oates's cookbook The Beauty Chef.
This lovely dish is made with black rice, the only rice that contains anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, and mango, which is rich in digestive enzymes.
1/2 cup black glutinous rice, soaked in cold water overnight
11/2 cups water
2/3 cup coconut cream
large pinch of Himalayan salt
11/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ripe mango, cut into cubes
6 strawberries, sliced
Drain & rinse the rice.
Place the rice & water in a medium saucepan & bring to the boil. Decrease the heat to the lowest possible temperature. Gently simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, cover & set aside for 10 minutes, to finish cooking.
Meanwhile, gently simmer the coconut cream & salt together for 2-3 minutes, until thickened slightly. Set aside.
Once the rice is cooked, add the maple syrup & stir to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
Serve the sticky rice warm or at room temperature drizzled with the salted coconut cream & topped with fresh mango & strawberries.
I didn't have a few of the ingredients in house, so I swapped out a few goodies. I mixed in a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil into the warm rice then added kelp salt & maple syrup, & served with organic natural yoghurt, fresh cherries, peach & blueberries and still absolute deliciousness! Perfect start to a sunny day.